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Bad accident... Where to go from here

Old 11-08-13, 02:04 PM
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RFEngineer
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Bad accident... Where to go from here

I have been really enjoying bike commuting this year 11 miles each way, two times a week. 7 miles of my route is on a concrete, unlit bike path that follows a creek greenbelt. I have been using a Philips LED bike light and have been very happy with how well I can see with it in the dark. My morning rides start at 6am and were in pretty much in complete darkness before the time change. I ride a road bike with 25mm tires.

Well, last week we got about 3 inches of rain at my house one night. That's a lot of rain for here, as we're usually in a drought. My ride into work two days after the rain did not go well. A few miles into my commute, I rode into a portion of the path that was covered in 2-3 inches of water. I didn't see it at all until I was in it, maybe because the water was the same color as the path. But as soon as I was into the water, my bike COMPLETELY lost traction and I went down FAST and HARD. I didn't have any time to react, it happened so fast. My back wheel came around to the left and I fell on my right hip. The water must have been covering quite a bit of mud as well. My front tire is just caked in the stuff.

I hurt myself pretty badly. I was about 1/2 mile from a trailhead where my wife could pick me up and I was barely able to walk there with the aid of my bike. I spent 4 nights in the hospital after they decided I broke my pelvis in 4 places.

So I'm trying to decide where to go from here. Was this just a fluke accident, or was it preventable? I'll have a while to think about it, as I think it will take me a while to heal. I've pretty much decided to not ride on that greenbelt path in the dark anymore, even with a great headlight. The fact that I was inaccessible by car has me pretty spooked. But I'm not happy about that since my alternate route on city streets is not nearly as convenient and goes on several roads that have traffic that I am not comfortable with. Can anyone think of something I obviously should be doing differently? Looking back on it, riding 24 hours after a heavy rain, through a creek greenbelt that could be flooded, in the dark was not a good idea, but is that just hindsight speaking? Were my tires the problem? Should I be riding on significantly wider tires? Or knobby tires? Would that have helped?

I'm not an inexperienced cyclist, although I don't have as many miles under my belt as some of you. I've ridden 1000+ miles this year and 3500+ since I started a few years ago. What do you guys think? Thanks.

Alan
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Old 11-08-13, 02:38 PM
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I'm sorry to here about your accident and the severity of your injuries, hope you feel better soon. I've been fortunate never to have been so seriously injured, I consider it and what I would do in such an event though. I've been riding my whole life and have wrecked many times. Look, all riders go down, good ones too-it's inevitable. If you ride on two wheels long enough you're going to crash, and it could be due any number of circumstances: some in and many out of your control. I guess safety is about controlling for all the risks that you can and accepting that accidents can still occur. I find that I've been more reflective of my safety since the birth of my son 5 1/2 years ago. I know that riding is something I love doing and, that's it's great for my health: making me a better dad too. However, after a few close calls on my daily commute (something I've been doing for 12 years now), I stepped back and re-evaluated my commuting safety. Everything from lights, route choice, tires, lane positioning, crossing intersections, my interactions with drivers, etc. My most serious close call came about a year ago when I crossed against a light, early in the morning, and an F250 turned into me and tagged the back of my bike. Luckily I was just fine but, it really shook me up. I considered giving up the commute but, forced myself back on the bike after making some changes to my riding habits, and I'm glad I did. I still think about those changes and continually re-evaluate so as to increase my safety. I guess when you're passionate about anything that carries potential risk that's the best you can do. Don't beat yourself up too bad over this, this about what you can do to be safer next time and get back in the saddle when you're ready.
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Old 11-08-13, 02:40 PM
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I'm really sorry to hear about that Alan-- that sounds horrible. I think it was a fluke, and you should try to move on without dissecting it too much. The only thing I think you could have really done differently is slow down, and just generally approach unusual conditions with a little more caution than you do normal conditions. Best wishes for your recovery!
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Old 11-08-13, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by PennyTheDog View Post
I'm really sorry to hear about that Alan-- that sounds horrible. I think it was a fluke, and you should try to move on without dissecting it too much. The only thing I think you could have really done differently is slow down, and just generally approach unusual conditions with a little more caution than you do normal conditions. Best wishes for your recovery!
+1

I'd be willing to bet you it was the mud that got you more than the water. Mud can be slicker the ice. I rode on 25's in the spring during some localized street flooding and the deeper puddles were at least an inch, the water was completely burying the bottom of the rims in some places, and it was hard going, but didn't really effect the handling in such a drastic manner.

One thing to watch out for in those conditions is hidden potholes.
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Old 11-08-13, 03:14 PM
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Originally Posted by PennyTheDog View Post
The only thing I think you could have really done differently is slow down, and just generally approach unusual conditions with a little more caution than you do normal conditions. Best wishes for your recovery!
Yes, slowing down could possibly have helped, but I hurt myself pretty badly one night in the rain, because I couldn't see the road's edge as I was turning into a T intersection. I was in the middle of a turn, I was going less than 5 mph. This was with a MagicShine. 1000 lumen headlight. I checked, the o.p.'s headlight is 400 lumens. Most people think 400 lumen lights are hellishly bright and that they can see a lot... ... I don't know... who am I. I will say this though. The DOT doesn't allow anyone to look into less than 3000 lumens out the front of a car. The people with the HID headlamps are looking into as much as 6000 lumens and wet asphalt can absorb even that much light and not return a whole lot to you to work with. So... the accident could have happened even with a better headlight. But, if I were the o.p. first order of business before any more night riding would be to upgrade the quantity and quality of light carried on the bike. It will come in handy some day. Motorists don't get to say "well I only drive in well lit areas so I'll just buy this much light for my car. You never know where you will be or what will change. A streetlight could go out. You might have to ride home during a blackout. Be prepared. 25mm tires are on the smallish size for commuting. Just saying. I don't know... the low frequency of the commute, the distrust of traffic, This could go either way going forward, could it not. For me, there is no choice. After a fall I've got to get back on the horsie. There is no car option when you live car free. Mass transit is 5 bucks a round-trip. Any fall that doesn't kill me, is a fall that I will continue riding after once I heal. FWIW.

H
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Old 11-08-13, 03:15 PM
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Hazards in the way should be avoidable. Things like falling trees and bad drivers are less in your control. Maybe better lights would have helped? I always have a strong light on the bars and very strong light on my helmet, giving me visibility such that I can stop in time. The helmet light is key, allowing me to focus the light on potential hazards well before they become an issue, and to see around corners, where the bar light doesn't shine.

Can't avoid everything, though. Rest up, heal up, and chalk it up to lessons learned.
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Old 11-08-13, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by awsimons View Post
I have been really enjoying bike commuting this year 11 miles each way, two times a week. 7 miles of my route is on a concrete, unlit bike path that follows a creek greenbelt. I have been using a Philips LED bike light and have been very happy with how well I can see with it in the dark. My morning rides start at 6am and were in pretty much in complete darkness before the time change. I ride a road bike with 25mm tires.

<snip>

I've pretty much decided to not ride on that greenbelt path in the dark anymore, even with a great headlight.
I'm saddened by your injuries and wish you a quick and complete recovery. On to the "now what" aspect of your post....

My two cents -- it seems, almost QED, that you may be unrealistic about how OK your light is and how well it let you see in the dark. Beyond that, you've leapt to conclusions about how much not better a better light would be. I don't know which Philips light you had. But at the end of the day, it's insufficiency was at least a factor (if not THE factor) in you plowing unknowingly into a big puddle.

Who knows what kind of junk was in there? Wider, knobby, different, etc. tires might have minor marginal impacts, but the root issue here is that you out-rode your event horizon based on the light that you had. Get a better light, and get back on the horse that threw you.

To go further, the 24 hours after rain thing is only peripherally relevant. There can be junk in the trail at any time, it's only more likely after a big weather event like that. I'd prefer to light it up all the time than to play the odds half blind but only on the less risky days. Match your speed to your candlepower and terrain, or vice-versa.

Heal fast, Alan. Ride on.
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Old 11-08-13, 04:52 PM
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For crappy weather commuting, consider a recumbent trike. Having three wheels can really make a difference.
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Old 11-08-13, 05:08 PM
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I'm in the fluke camp. I hope you heal fast, then get better lights, and get right back on that horse....
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Old 11-08-13, 06:27 PM
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Originally Posted by awsimons View Post
I spent 4 nights in the hospital after they decided I broke my pelvis in 4 places.


Alan
Really sorry to hear about your accident Alan. What you suffered was quite serious and it's going to take months for this to heal. Don't push getting back on the bike because you won't be doing that for the rest of the year.

It's time to evaluate what you did wrong and yes, a mountain bike probably would have saved you. The problem I have is the fact you may fall again and how is your body going to handle the accident. After my serious accident, I'm biking alot less because I want to do it the rest of my life. However, I've slowed down alot and I'm much more careful.

I don't bike commute unless it's an emergency like Hurricane Sandy that stops all public transit. However, what you suffered is a life changing accident and one you'll feel the rest of your life. If you decide to walk away from bike commuting, let no one make you get back on.
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Old 11-08-13, 06:34 PM
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Where to go from here? I'd say onto the road and yes, forget the MUP.
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Old 11-08-13, 07:13 PM
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Rule 5- Harden the F up

Seriously though, a little over a year ago I got rear ended at speed on my bike by a pickup truck. Luckily I wasn't as injured as you are and man that sucks, sorry you got hurt. Anyway, from my experience I can say you are going to have some PTSD about the incident. Before you get back on the bike you'll probably buy a bunch of stuff that will make you feel better, but not actually improve your situation. When it's all said and done, you'll be right back where you were before, but maybe a little wiser.

My analysis of your accident based only on how you told it: Sorry if this sounds insensitive, but you were confronted with unfamiliar circumstances and failed to acknowledge them. In hindsight, when confronted with your new situation (an unusual amount of rain) you should have opted for alternate transportation or slowed the heck down. You've been doing this successfully for awhile so why make changes based on infrequent circumstance. Just change your mindset so that if in the future things are much different from the norm, you acknowledge that and approach those circumstances with a little more caution.

Hope that helps, I know how you feel.

edit: Mea Culpa- the mistake I made in my accident was that I thought I was untouchable because I had a bright flashing light on the back. i still run the light on back, day or night, but also have a mirror to complete that 360 degree circle of awareness. I also chastise myself if a car passes me that I wasn't already aware of.

Last edited by WorldPax; 11-08-13 at 07:21 PM.
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Old 11-08-13, 10:47 PM
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Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement and food for thought. I will definitely consider what everyone has said and reevaluate what I am doing.
Alan
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Old 11-08-13, 11:17 PM
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Very sorry to hear about your accident, hope you recover soon.

This sounds like a fluke due to the amount of rain, which you said is not normal, but I am sure you will be ready next time, or avoid the area. Get back on your bike when you are well and this is a warning for everyone to be aware of the unexpected when you have different conditions, such as rain in darkness. You made me think of the low spots on the routes I travel. Thanks for posting your story.
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Old 11-09-13, 08:06 AM
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Sorry to hear about your accident.
Was it Salado Creek or Leon Creek, bikeway ?

My advice...
Go at it again.
Happened to me many moons ago in austin, on our shoal creek path.
Mud over concrete is very slick.
Slow way down when heading in to low spots where you know the mud and water settle out....

Also,

Run brighter lights. Many options out there. I run a cygolite 420, plenty bright enough for me.

And also, a tire with more width does help in unexpected situations.
Panaracer TServs, Paselas, or UrbanMax in 700X32's are nice.
I run Continental Travel Contact 700X37 on my cyclocross commuter.

But my favorite all conditions rig has Schwalbe Big Apples, 26X2.15.
They also make Big Apples and Big Bens in the 700c size.
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Old 11-09-13, 08:41 AM
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Here are some info about diffuse reflection
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffuse_reflection



From this link i think you should increase the number of incident light sources by having lights that light the road from different angles which means having lights on your head, on the handlebar and on the front wheel. It will increase the chances that you see light rays reflected by water i.e puddles.


My advice:

-wider tires
-MTB with suspension in front
-strong lights: on a helmet, handlebar and front wheel
-be careful at least during the few days after it rains

Last edited by erig007; 11-09-13 at 08:48 AM.
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Old 11-09-13, 09:00 AM
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Ouch, that is a rough one for sure. I also fall into the fluke camp. Accidents happen and unfortunately this was just a really painful one. I have sprained my ankle so bad I could not walk for 4 days simply from stepping off a few inch high ledge wrong, it can happen any where doing any thing, I would not let that keep you from doing something you were clearly enjoying.
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Old 11-09-13, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by OneGoodLeg View Post
+1

I'd be willing to bet you it was the mud that got you more than the water. Mud can be slicker the ice. I rode on 25's in the spring during some localized street flooding and the deeper puddles were at least an inch, the water was completely burying the bottom of the rims in some places, and it was hard going, but didn't really effect the handling in such a drastic manner.

One thing to watch out for in those conditions is hidden potholes.
Never Never Ride into WATER.......



Saw a friend do a head dive into this:

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Old 11-09-13, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by RFEngineer View Post
Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement and food for thought. I will definitely consider what everyone has said and reevaluate what I am doing.
Alan
Heal Quickly with Prayers.
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Old 11-09-13, 09:34 AM
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First of all, I hope you have a speedy recovery!

I've be had a similar thing happen to me but to a lesser degree. I've always been a mountain biker. And luckily never really got seriously injured. But I started enjoying road rides more with one of my converted mountain bikes so I went out and purchased a road bike.

I brought the new bike home, adjusted the saddle, and decided to take it around the block. Literally as I was riding around the block, there was a small stream of water at the corner that's always there because of runoff and there must've been a film of algae. I slipped hard on that stuff and went down like a sack of potatoes.

The bike got a little scuffed up and shifter bent but no biggie. Myself tho, injured my right hip. I never saw a doctor about it but I could barely walk for about a month and a half. I'm pretty sure that I fractured something.

Even to this day, it still hurts in the general area when I push myself. I think that I should've gotten physical therapy. Anyways, speedy recovery to you!
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Old 11-09-13, 09:54 AM
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Hope you're healing well! Sorry about the injury.

After I had my bicycle accident I felt compelled to follow through with an accident report type of procedure. I am retired now.... but I think I felt a remnant of responsibility towards safety from my years as serving as safety officer. I determined what procedure would have prevented or reduced the chances of my type of accident. Then I implemented the new policy.... by buying new, better equipment.

I have confidence in the accident report system. Even though I fully realize it doesn't work well with a limited (just me) work force. If I had thousands, hundreds, or even dozens of such report a years a difference would be realized over a few years. But with just me to reduce the risks... one accident at a time the odds aren't in my favor.

Sports and transportation will ALWAYS have accidents. The variables are far too great to eliminate all of the opportunities to experience injury. In other words.... there will be blood. every time I bicycle.... I do so with full acceptance that I could experience serious disabling injuries or even death. For me... in my acceptance I am able to discard the fears that would ruin the pure joy of bicycling.

Timing your reflexes and buying a better light could allow you to better match your cycling speed with the reach of your headlight. If you were out-driving your headlight.... that would resolve that problem. A three wheeled recumbent could also be helpful in future crashes. It is also important to remember that any heavy rain or storm will drop or blow in debris to most cycling paths. Always use extra care when cycling after bad weather.

However.... I suggest you consider Volunteering or seeking an elected position within the park or city department that controls the path system you use. This might be the best solution. If you could cause a better path-lighting system... or standing water fix or warning system... that could affect countless cyclists for generations.

One local community that serves as a hub of cycling paths has established a bicycle ambulance. A powered quad-cycle with a stretcher. It allows the fire-EMT's to access the path system quickly. Maybe even just a conversation with a fire-fighter neighbor/friend/family member could get something like that started in your area too.

Last edited by Dave Cutter; 11-09-13 at 10:01 AM.
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Old 11-09-13, 10:05 AM
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Don't Do It.....

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Old 11-09-13, 09:41 PM
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Heal quickly!

On item that hasn't already been mentioned, and it's for all of us: If you go down that hard, 911 might be a better option than a spouse or a relative. Adrenalin can help us do crazy things, like walk with a broken pelvis, but if you feel hurt, don't be afraid to call for help. Get evaluated and if necessary evacuated by professionals.
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Old 11-09-13, 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by RFEngineer View Post
I have been really enjoying bike commuting this year 11 miles each way, two times a week. 7 miles of my route is on a concrete, unlit bike path that follows a creek greenbelt. I have been using a Philips LED bike light and have been very happy with how well I can see with it in the dark. My morning rides start at 6am and were in pretty much in complete darkness before the time change. I ride a road bike with 25mm tires.

Well, last week we got about 3 inches of rain at my house one night. That's a lot of rain for here, as we're usually in a drought. My ride into work two days after the rain did not go well. A few miles into my commute, I rode into a portion of the path that was covered in 2-3 inches of water. I didn't see it at all until I was in it,
Get a real light. If you can't tell that that road is covered in water, and not, you know, asphalt, you are either riding way too fast, or your lights suck. I bet, strongly, on 'your lights suck'. Even if you're well insured, your hospital stay cost more than good lights do.
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Old 11-09-13, 10:38 PM
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Especially how cheap ebay XML lights are now. I use my "5000 lumen" (not sure if it is or not but its BRIGHT) everyday on duty or off since my job has me outdoors most of the evenings. $40 plus 20 for a double capacity battery.

I'll second the tires/mtb option. I will not use my roadie on night commutes because the liabilities for oops moments is so much higher. I had a freak endo nearly launch me into traffic once. Thank goodness the car behind me stopped in time. Small pot hole, tucked position. Mtb on the same hole just goes bonk. Rain is a minimal factor to treaded tires, standing water is only a minor difference. Disc brakes are largely unaffected by wet. Drag is a tradeoff compared to safety. One I am happy to make. Good wishes on your recovery and I hope you get back on the horse soon.
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